You may know Jason Wahler from one of his many reality TV shows. We got to know him growing up in front of the camera. It wasn’t always pretty. We caught up with Jason working on his recovery program after a recent relapse. He talks about his current projects (including a new “The Hills” reboot), but he mainly shares where he is as a person in recovery. In this first article, Jason explains how he got here and what having “foundation” means in his life.
BreakFreely: Let’s start with how you are doing…
Jason: Looking back through everything I have obviously struggled with addiction for many years unfortunately on a very public platform. I went to treatment I’d say 10 or 11 times. Well, let me say this, I was arrested probably 12 times and went to 11 different treatment centers from Florida to Hawaii and every state in between before I really actually acquired some time being sober. That happened after I appeared on Celebrity Rehab. It’s funny to touch on my entertainment career. It started on Laguna Beach, did the Hills, then did a celebrity rap show, and then did Celebrity Rehab. That gives you the arc of everything I went through. But, after I went through Celebrity Rehab, I ended up really surrendering and taking direction. It’s important to know that I went into Celebrity Rehab not really with the intention of getting sober. I went there to change the public’s perspective of the way they perceived me and the way I acted, but ultimately, by just taking direction, it got me into a place where I became willing.
Bigger Opportunities in the Substance Abuse Industry
That’s where I connected with the people from Northbound – Mike Netherton who was the president of Betty Ford for 20 years, obviously having Dr. Drew Pinksy more as a mentor – I took direction, got a job, and ultimately ended up working in the substance abuse field. I went and worked in the trenches for many years. I went from being a recovery advocate, to developing and building their alumni program, from the alumni program I went into marketing and took over client services. I got really established within the industry, if you will. I took over branding and became a spokesperson for recovery.
The promises had come true…life got really, really good. Bigger opportunities came in the recovery space. Companies were wanting to build with me and grow with me. I grew out of Northbound and went with Origins Behavioral Health. Things were flourishing. I started my own aftercare business, which was Widespread Recovery where we really focused on the aftercare, a place where people could stabilize and reintegrated back into life.
Life Became Unmanageable
Things were going really well but, what happened is that I got way too busy. My program stopped being my number one priority. I became complacent, overwhelmed. I was overpromising and under-delivering. My life became unmanageable. I went to see a doctor – one I’d seen for many years. He’d worked with me before. We talked, and I was prescribed Adderall – which I had been prescribed when I was like 12 of 13 for ADD. He thought that it would be good for me again to help focus my thought process and I had no intention of abusing the prescription or anything like that. In reality, I was just doing too much. That started to work for a month or two, but then I started abusing it. I went into a full-fledged relapse. It lasted for a good three years. It got to a point where I couldn’t sleep so I started using alcohol to sleep. This was no party. This wasn’t like my old days where I was the party guy out and having a great time (usually getting arrested is what went along with it) but this time, I was hibernating in my office. Using and drinking by myself. The scariest part about it was people couldn’t tell because I made it into a 24-hour, 7 day a week job where I was doing a balancing act taking a downer and an upper. I was able to have coherent conversations. I was not necessarily the most accountable, but I was able to maintain. That was on the outside, but internally I was literally just dying. It took me to suicidal ideations. Long story short, my wife knew about it, but didn’t want to come out around it. I actually even got the award from Congress in 2017 for being the voice of recovery which I have a lot of shame in, but I don’t want to discredit the work that I had done in this industry because everything that I did was always putting the client’s best interest at heart. Even though I was not taking care of myself. That’s not to justify it. It just shows that I had become addicted with work and other things. It really comes down to the importance of a balancing act.
A Much Needed Intervention
I got intervened on after my wife couldn’t take it any longer. She was pregnant with our daughter. And I ended up going to detox came back out was able to maintain sobriety for a while then went back into the same patterns. Then on March 21stI was admitted into a detox and treatment program. From there I really surrendered again, refocused, and rededicated my life to recovery. I am in a place now where things are going really, really well. I got my life back on track. I am doing good work and doing work back in the recovery space, but more from an advocacy standpoint and as a spokesperson for recovery. This is what I love doing and where my passion is. I don’t want to work back in the trenches any more.
The funny thing is that I took a people pleasing test while in treatment – out of 30 of the questions I was 27 of them. I realized then that I needed to step back. My priorities and my program today are on keeping things simple. I’ve created a routine which consists of waking up, doing morning meditation, saying a prayer, and preparing a gratitude list on what I’m grateful for, but not only that – why I am grateful for those things. I usually intertwine a meeting and go to the gym. That’s how I start my day off 90% of the time. When I don’t do those things, I feel a huge difference. So, I keep my routine a big priority. Obviously, family and spending time with my daughter is a huge priority. The work I’m doing now all fall after that. I’ve learned to keep God and my program as my number one thing and everything else falls in place.
It’s A Balancing Act
I will always do a few things of my routine, but I may not be perfect with it. I notice that even if I miss one thing or a few things it makes my day that much more shift, so I try as hard as I can to make sure I don’t leave the house without doing my full morning routine. It’s about keeping it simple and balanced. Balance is the biggest thing I have always struggled with. I can get pulled in so many different directions. I like helping. I like giving back and being of service. A big part of my sobriety is about foundation, fellowship, and service. But, it’s really a balancing act. I was reading something this morning that hit the nail on the head when it comes to balancing everything:
- Give, but don’t allow your self to be used.
- Love, but don’t allow your heart to be abused.
- Trust, but don’t be naïve.
- Listen, but don’t lose your own voice.